Thanks JPod for the John Burns excerpt. What is striking, and so moving, about his comments is their fair-mindedness. It is worth dwelling on for a bit. The NYT has sunk pretty low in recent years but Burns continues to shine. He is evaluating the situation without any axes to grind — in stark contrast to nearly everyone else in America. Liberals barely know the name of Iraq. For them, it’s just another country name to slip into the Vietnam slot of their rigid mental architecture. Among some Republicans, it seems to be a finger pointing moment, hoping to blame George Bush for all that has gone wrong with the war, the conservative movement, and the world in the past six years.
Burns, with becoming modesty and humane understanding, seeks to understand why we got it wrong in Iraq and concludes that we underestimated the devastation Saddam had wrought. He may be right or he may be wrong, but the sensibility he expresses — that our mistakes were honest ones (not wanting too large a footprint, hoping the Iraqis would handle matters on their own) — is such a relief. It pulls something into focus that I hadn’t fully realized until this minute, namely that we have been giving ourselves a terrible pounding for the past 12 months. Not all mistakes are created equal. Our mistakes in Iraq have been well-intentioned ones.